Content Author Object Flagger Flag Created Reason Resolved by Resolution
Western Cottonmouth (Subspecies Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma) sandboa Tue, 19 Jun 2018 03:43:41 +0000

our taxonomy doesn't match either the Reptile Database nor SSAR regarding species/subspecies of Cottonmouths.


see comments



Just to clarify, iNat currently lists three subspecies of Agkistrodon piscivorus - piscivorus, leucostoma & conanti. The Reptile Database no longer recognises subspecies for this taxon (after BURBRINK & GUIHER). Following the Reptile Database then, iNat taxa A. p. leucostoma and A. p. piscivorus should be lumped with Agkistrodon piscivorus and A. p. conanti elevated to species status as Agkistrodon conanti. @sandboa is this what you're advocating?

Posted by rfoster over 2 years ago (Flag)

The RD is internally inconsistent in their discussion of the two subspecies of A. piscivorus after elevation of A. conanti. SSAR and the Burbrink and Gunther paper which recognize none.

If we go with the two species model, the names typically used are Northern Cottonmouth (A. piscivorus)
Florida Cottonmouth (A. conanti).

The issue that this does create is that there are large hybrid zones indicated in this paper and Inat doesn't have a solution for dealing with putative hybrids from a taxonomic perspective.

The same paper also elevates the Copperhead (A. contortrix) into two species with no subspecies as well and the RD has adopted this taxonomy.

Eastern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
Broad-banded Copperhead (Agkistrodon laticinctus)

And once again, there are large areas of hybridization.

I don't actually like either of these taxonomic arrangements, but it is what our model (the RD) accepts.


Posted by sandboa over 2 years ago (Flag)

Yes, I noticed that the RD page for A. piscivorus still contains a discussion about the distribution of the two subspecies that they say aren't recognised! I think that is just the result of the page being hastily and incompletely updated but it's definitely confusing.

I think only loarie now has the rights to make changes like this in vertebrates so I can't implement them for you. To make it easy for him you'll need flag each taxon (i.e. each of the 3 ssp), state what you think should happen to it and provide your justification e.g. to reflect the Reptile Database taxonomy (url to page, useful). For this current flag (on ssp leucostoma) you'll need to refine the request (i.e. ask for it to be lumped with object Agkistrodon piscivorus as per the RD).

As for the hybrids, it's annoying how nature doesn't play by the rules, isn't it?! However, there is the option to add them to the iNat taxonomy if it's widely recognised that they exist. If some specimens are identifiable as hybrids it definitely makes sense to do it. I've had a couple of fish hybrids added. To request a hybrid entry, add the flag to the genus level record. It'd be good to provide a reference to the existence of hybrid zones.

cheers, ralph

Posted by rfoster over 2 years ago (Flag)

Hi folks - since they have so many observations, changing cottonmout and copperhead would be pretty distruptive.

At the moment I've held them out as 'explicit deviations' from the Reptile Database - see snakes 4 & 5 here:

If you guys want to go with RD, (ie not explicitly deviate) we'll need to make sure we're very clear about what the changes mean so we can be as minimally disruptive as possible.

Ideally one of you could draft a blog post like this

Posted by loarie over 2 years ago (Flag)

we're now using Taxon Frameworks to track deviations:
next steps to making this split would be to create draft output taxa, atlases for the output taxa, a draft taxon change(s), and ideally new Taxon Ranges - any takers?

Posted by loarie over 1 year ago (Flag)

merging conversations in one place...


re: Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma, the Taxon Framework on Class Reptilia does cover subspeices. We're currently deviating from reptile database until someone can help with the split. As I explained here the next steps would be to:
1) create draft output taxa
2) atlases for the output taxa
3) a draft taxon change(s)
4) and ideally new Taxon Ranges
Any curator can do all 4 of these steps, so if you want this change to happen and are a curator please go ahead. If you're not a curator see if you can convince a curator to take this work on or consider becoming one yourself.


@loarie Explain to me why dumping "leucostoma" is such a difficult, big whoop-dee-doo, Scott. Is it because there's a few people here that *insist* on identifying to "Western" Cottonmouth and repeatedly state "I'm gonna call this A. p. "leucostoma" until iNaturalist removes it as an identification option, bobbyfingers - SO THERE!" and you're afraid to ruffle the feathers of a relatively small backward-thinking contingent? Was it the same sort of big deal to accomplish the dumping of other "popular" subspecies in the face of new and supposedly more "accurate" taxonomic research - like getting rid of the "Yellow" Ratsnake, Pantherophis alleghaniensis "quadrivittata", among others? I know about a month after I joined up on iNaturalist, I posted several nice observations of the former Outer Banks Kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula "sticticeps". Within a couple of weeks, you had it reduced to an "inactive taxon" as simply L. getula all by yourself, without any of the monkeydance you are suggesting is necessary to inactivate Agkistrodon p. "leucostoma" S'up with that? Make me a "curator", and I'll fix so much of this crap it'll make your head spin - but I'm sure not gonna "hold my breath" on that. @catenatus @pantherophis


@bouteloua Way to go on the L. clamitans fix, Cassi - thanks. Are ya gonna dare tackle the dreaded "Western" Cottonmouth next? The very lame, former "subspecies" that fills the hearts of iNat staffers with fear! lol! : )

the taxon changes are already drafted but I don't have the bandwidth to research/create atlases and ranges tonight. if you email me a shp or kml I can import them

Posted by bouteloua over 1 year ago (Flag)

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